With the enormous response that I got from readers for my previous article on Youngistaan Ka WOW!, I stumbled upon an interesting comment made by Anand Bala which pointed to a number of flaws in the system which were directly related to our trouble waters. When I contacted him to come up with detailed information through a guest post for my blog, he honored my request and here I am publishing the same. Anand Bala blogs at ‘Trying to Rationalize‘ on media, politics, development and a false sense of reality.
- This is a post with a lot of links that substantiate claims within the post
- The author of THIS post takes full responsibility for the views expressed in this article.
- The author of THIS post is deliberately insinuating in the content
- The author of THIS post is not apologetic about accusing beverage TNCs of profiteering (for private gain) from public wealth.
- You are free and welcome to copy and paste any content from THIS post with or without attribution.
- For more of my opinionated content please visit http://www.tripthi.org
There are several issues that worry me about large beverage companies like PepsiCo. They use their sheer size and muscle power to hijack was is a common property resource. The water that that they mine, excavate, bottle, and profiteer from is (i) fast depleting (ii) critical to both our urban and rural population and (iii) is not being replenished. With the above as the background, this post tries to questions some of the actions of the beverage giants in this country.
Heard of Mayilamma or Plachimada?
Many people have not even heard of Plachimada let alone Mayilamma. Plachimada has become infamous (or famous depending on your belief systems) for taking on and shutting down a Coca-Cola plant in Kerala. You can read more about the CocaColanisation of Plachimada.
A brief summary of the issue is as follows
- Plachimada is a small town in Palakkad district of Kerala.
- Coke was
extractingpillaging more water than was being regenerated within the Aquifer in Plachimada.
- The water mining was not only disrupting the aquifer, it was also leading to pollution. For example, water in Mayilamma’s well was declared unfit for human consumption.
- Mayilamma started a non-violent protest in front the Coke factory in April 2002 in front
- That struggle, after a protracted and extended legal battle saw i) the factory being shut down ii) A govt panel appointed by the court announced in March this year that Coca-Cola would have to fork out 216 crores in damages.
- What is interesting about the panel’s findings/recommendations is that it proves that Coca Cola was deliberate in its negligence, had violated almost every law related to ground water and could be held liable for individual compensation in addition to what the panel has recommended.
- Please read this editorial from EPW for what the struggle in Plachimada means for the rest of India.
It is tragically comical that as the people of Plachimada were fighting this battle, the corporate honchos brought in their poster boys. Shashi Tharoor was one of the folks who were standing up for Coke’s rights to pillage the water in Plachimada. As *usual* he claimed no impropriety and stated that the interests of Kerala were his driving force [yeah right!].
On the question of ground-water toxins and toxic sludge, I have seen reports from reputed governmental bodies, including the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and the Central Ground Water Board, New Delhi, refuting your charges. Once again, I am unable to understand the scientific basis for your continued charges against the company, and can only conclude that they are politically-motivated.
For those who have been following Tharoor’s recent controversies, the defence sounds tiresome. To set the record straight, the findings/recommendations of the court appointed panel on Plachimada are here. [Drink that Mr Tharoor!]
MAYBE (coz I can’t prove it) Coke is reciprocating the favour. Suhel Seth (the mop head who appears ranting on nightly news discussions) is connected with coke. He has been discretely defending Tharoor’s integrity on the Modi Controversy. To quote Suhel Seth …”Shashi Tharoor and Modi are in the dock for perceptual misrepresentation” he goes on to say that Tharoor must resign like Lal Bahadur Shastri. (Shastri’s ashes must be cringing).
Aquafina’s Dubious Claims
Aquafina’s labels claim to be creating a positive impact on the water table. As recent as March this year, PepsiCo has been accused of excess water extraction by Kerala’s Assembly’s Subject Committee. Their response was denial. However, I did not know whether to laugh or cry when they said that they use “6.7 per cent of the total annual water consumption in the area”. [emphasis added]
PepsiCo uses the Golden Peacock award to support their claim of being environment friendly. To jog your memory, Satyam got the Golden Peacock for Corporate governance a few months before it collapsed. I hope readers won’t mind if I remain cynical about the award.
Pepsi also claims that it has saved 2.5 million litres of water in five years. To put that PIDDLY amount into perspective –
- The average American consumes 150 galloons of water a day
- This is about 219,000 litres a year
- Over years this person would have consumed just over a million litres of water!
- Which means that PepsiCo HAS SAVED THE EQUIVALENT OF THE WATER CONSUMPTION OF 2.5 AMERICANS IN FIVE YEARS!! Hello??? Just 2.5 people???
- Please check the links, do the math, and hopefully you too will spit on an Aquafina Label’s claim.
Remember March 1993?
I can’t forget the entire period from December 6th 1992 to March 15th 1993. I was in Bombay (it was still Bombay those days). The December riots post Ayodhya had me shaken. Some people I knew closely were injured in the Bomb Blasts that rocked Bombay on March 12th 1993. What I saw that night while we moved from hospital to hospital still gives me the occasional nightmare.
One of the accused, Sanjay Dutt, was convicted by the Trial Court under the Arms Act. He is out on bail while his case is awaiting an appeal hearing. The Supreme Court has said that he cannot contest an election. It is this man who Pepsi chooses as their ambassador in #PepsiTheGame. I find that Pepsi and Dutt make a wonderfully wicked couple.
Indira Nooyi, the much admired CEO of PepsiCo, is on Manmohan Singh’s global advisory council.
I would not take such appointments lightly. This gives her the ability to influence corridors of power. Such appointments are, in my opinion, a reflection of Crony Capitalism that has crept into our government in the last ten years.
The poorest of the poor are desperately seeking representation in parliament while industry captains who profiteer from common property resources like water, are invited to advise the PM. Still can’t figure out how people miss the irony of it all.
Creative Capitalism and Anemia
Bill Gates has built a reputation in the Third World for creative capitalism. His most recent misadventure with creative capitalism was a medical trial for the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. The medical trials have been called off after protests from a wide range of groups (ranging from Indian Journal of Medical Ethics to human rights groups)
PepsiCo does not want to be left behind in the creative capitalism stakes. They are planning to start clinical trials on a medicine that claims to cure anemia in women. I find this insulting! After depriving us of water and possibly polluting aquifers (e.g. Plachimada) they want to retail a cure for Anemia to rural women [emphasis added]. An old post of mine on Pepsi and their anemia (and more) is here
On an End Note
I would suggest that we take a close look at the “The Plachimada Declaration“. If nothing else, at least read it once out of respect for Mayilamma.
The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily represent the views of the owner of this blog.